Supreme Court Strikes Down California Video Game Law

We’ve been waiting months for the Supreme Court to decide the case of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (also known as the California violent game law). This morning, the Court announced its decision.

The Court ruled in favor of the EMA and struck down the law (everyone cheer now!). This decision overturned both the Federal District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court, who affirmed the law. In the majority opinion (7-2 with Justices Thomas and Breyer dissenting). The decision states affirmatively that:

Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And “the basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary” with a new and different communication medium.

Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia said,

Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary
devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection. Under our Constitution, “esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature . . . are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.”

You can read the full decision and opinion on the Supreme Court’s website.

The message to all those people who’d like to legislate video games out of existence is this: STOP IT. Is it too much to hope that this rids us of the specter of Jack Thompson once for all? It’s such a great day, can I at least pretend it will?

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1 Comment on Supreme Court Strikes Down California Video Game Law

Jeff Mills

On June 27, 2011 at 9:40 am

I normally don’t drink alcohol, but I’m going to have a beer to celebrate this decision.